During the final week of May a proclamation was posted in the northeast counties with Gen. Shelby warning all draft age men to enroll in some unit. Also, deserters were allowed to join legal companies without fear of court martial. On June 7, a directive went out to unit commanders to furlough the men who had wheat to harvest and growing corn to cultivate. This agriculture measure did much to eliminate a cause for desertion and satisfied the soldier’s families who had endured much persecution from predatory gangs and other riff raff. Their evil presence was on the decline
A number of boats constructed at Batesville were sent downstream to Jacksonport and combined with sturdy planks, formed a pontoon bridge at that place. As soon was the bridge was installed, Gen. Shelby led his brigade across on a downward march east of White River. It could have been the horses needed more abundant grazing.
All the while, roads were alive with couriers galloping in all directions carrying orders to commanding officers in north Arkansas and beyond.
Instructions of a large magnitude were given to Col. Thomas H. McCray who was headquartered at Jacksonport organizing his brigade. Shelby seemed to accord him more responsibility than most. On June 8, he received an ordered from Pickett’s farm in Jackson County “to collect together all unorganized parts of companies, and squads for consolidation; who were then to hold elections and send returns to the general’s HQ of all companies organized, with muster rolls of the same, showing a complete status of the companies”. When this was done, the units were to be permanently attached to McCray’s brigade for duty. Such accountability denied them roving status which assured security to the home front.
On June 11, at a encampment farther south near Augusta, dispatches went out to Cols. John T. Coffee, Solomon G. Kitchens, Henry Clarke and three Captains to report to Col. McCray at Jacksonport. The Colonel himself was advised to draw ammunition from the general’s ordnance officer. Gen. Shelby also established a courier line from his HQ to McCray’s and cautioned him to keep a vigilant lookout toward Searcy. Finally, fellow Missourian and friend, Sidney D Jackman, from near the border was ordered to immediately move his command in Shelby’s direction and report to him.
Operations against the enemy were developing and the continuous southward movement was agreeable to the horse’s constant need for forage.
Over in Mississippi Major Gen. N. B. Forrest had designs on a single railroad leading from Nashville that fueled supplies that kept Gen. Sherman’s army moving deep into Georgia. Forrest, who was an iron fisted no-nonsense commander of cavalry, possessed like Shelby, considerable talent in the victorious use of the mounted arm.
At this time he had an independent command in northen Mississippi. On June 10, he smashed a larger column from Memphis that was sent to destroy him or keep him distracted from the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad. The Battle of Brice’s Crossroads in Tippah County Mississippi produced a ripple effect that would benefit Shelby’s activities in northeast Arkansas.